Environmental Factors That Influence Amphibian Community Structure and Health as Indicators of Ecosystems

EPA Grant Number: R825867
Title: Environmental Factors That Influence Amphibian Community Structure and Health as Indicators of Ecosystems
Investigators: Beasley, Val , Brannian, Roger , Cochran, Jack , Cole, Rebecca , Johnson, Lucinda , Ouellet, Martin , Phillips, Christopher , Richards, Carl , Schoff, Pat
Current Investigators: Beasley, Val , Cole, Rebecca , Johnson, Catherine , Johnson, Lucinda , Lieske, Camilla , Murphy, Joe , Piwoni, Marvin , Richards, Carl , Schoff, Pat , Schotthoefer, Anna
Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana , Illinois Natural History Survey , McGill University , United States Geological Survey [USGS] , University of Minnesota - Duluth
Current Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana , Illinois Waste Management and Research Center , United States Geological Survey [USGS] , University of Minnesota - Duluth
EPA Project Officer: Levinson, Barbara
Project Period: June 1, 1998 through May 31, 2001 (Extended to September 30, 2002)
Project Amount: $1,299,991
RFA: Ecosystem Indicators (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecosystems , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration

Description:

Amphibian populations are influenced by environmental factors that occur and are regulated at multiple spatial scales. Land cover patterns, fragmentation patterns, connectivity of landscape elements, and spatial position of roads, water bodies, and other landscape elements in the region are predicted to influence amphibian community structure and health at regional scales. At local scales, biotic interactions with other species, water quality, parasite burden, and contaminant levels in the environment are believed to exert a strong influence as well.

The objectives of this study are to determine:
a. the relative influence of pond-scale and watershed scale factors on indicators of amphibian species richness, community structure, and health. [Can landscape and ecological data predict the success of amphibian communities?]
b. whether amphibian species richness, community structure, and health are highly predictive of ecological integrity. [Are amphibians a valuable indicator of ecological integrity?]

Approach:

Amphibian populations are influenced by environmental factors that occur and are regulated at multiple spatial scales. Land cover patterns, fragmentation patterns, connectivity of landscape elements, and spatial position of roads, water bodies, and other landscape elements in the region are predicted to influence amphibian community structure and health at regional scales. At local scales, biotic interactions with other species, water quality, parasite burden, and contaminant levels in the environment are believed to exert a strong influence as well. We will assess the relative influence of local and regional environmental factors on the health and community structure of amphibian guilds using a three-tiered sampling structure. This tiered sampling regimen is designed to quantify relationships between environmental factors, measured with satellite imagery and field techniques, and amphibian community structure and health, measured in the field and laboratory.

Expected Results:

The proposed research addresses this need. This study should identify principal environmental factors conducive and averse to amphibian species richness, abundance and health. It is likely that limited forested area, high indices of fragmentation, low connectivity, high road density, road locations near water bodies, agricultural fields near water bodies, and pesticides concentrations sufficient to affect the target species (insects for insecticides; plants for herbicides) will negatively impact amphibian species richness. Contamination of water with herbicides at concentrations that substantially reduce macrophyte populations is likely to be associated with low numbers of amphibians relative to predator populations;Y and increased numbers of encysted trematode parasites in amphibian tissues. Conversely, abundant macrophyte populations in water are likely to be associated with high amphibian/predator ratios, and low levels of parasite infection compared to other permanent water bodies. Also, macrophytes, such as water buttercup (Ranunculusflabellaris), that contain toxins that deter aquatic herbivores and therefore persist in their presence, are likely to be associated with high amphibian abundance. High concentrations of nitrate (greater then 40 mg/L) are likely to be associated with low amphibian abundance (Baker and Waights, 1993; 1994). Because of the high toxicity of dissolved ammonia, the use of ammonium nitrate as a fertilizer is likely to be associated with decreased amphibian abundance and health (Hecnar, 1995). Copper concentrations greater then 0.5 mg/L are predicted to be associated with increased numbers of reduction deficiency malformations in resident amphibians (Blem and Blem, 1991). High rates of trematode parasitism in limb bud areas and/or high inputs of methoprene are likely to be associated with limb deformities, including supernumerary limbs. Detection of triazine herbicides may be related to high rates of gonadal intersexuality

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 46 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 3 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

amphibian, ecological, integrity, community structure, watershed, indicator,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecology, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, exploratory research environmental biology, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Microbiology, Ecological Risk Assessment, Biology, Ecological Indicators, ecological exposure, pesticide exposure, aquatic biota , landscape indicator, watersheds, amphibians, ecosystem integrity, parasitic infection, multiple spatial scales, biotic integrity, contaminant impact, water quality

Relevant Websites:

http://www.nrri.umn.edu/cwe/amphweb.html Exit EPA icon

Progress and Final Reports:

1999 Progress Report
2000 Progress Report
2001 Progress Report
Final Report